In part one, we gave you an introduction to a brand new save on the blog in charge of Scottish League One side Raith Rovers. Now it’s time for manager Robí di Lathamé to get to grips with his new club, assess the squad, line up transfer targets with minimal funds and work out some tactics.
My first task in charge was to address all the players, so I explained I was aiming to reach the playoffs, they wholeheartedly agreed and looked in great spirits. Then the media assembled in a small media room at Stark’s Park, and Press Officer Ross Duncan advised the news stories included the following:
My second was to ask the board for a senior affiliate, to which they agreed and eventually recommended Rangers. So we should be able to poach some of their young players on loan, which could be really important for the club.
An early start in Scotland
Life in Fife began ridiculously early with a Betfred Cup (aka the League Cup) tie against Championship side Dundee on 13 July. The cup’s first-round took the form of a group of five teams and we’d barely had time to meet the team and find some staff, let alone play matches!
Regardless, we started well at Championship side Dundee and took the lead through midfielder Brad Spencer. But they got level just before half-time and scored another to sneak a win in the second half. Then I got my first win as Raith boss with a 4-1 win at home to Forfar Athletic, in which striker Lewis Allan scored a perfect hat-trick.
We then faced Premier League side Ross County with 5 first-choice players injured and took the lead through 33-year-old striker John Baird’s powerful strike. But a much stronger Ross side took control with 4 goals, and they actually went on to beat Rangers 2-0 in the next round!
Transfers and tactics
While all that was going on, I did manage to strengthen the side a little. Our partnership with Rangers helped as I loaned in left-winger Simon Brady as well as right-winger/striker Armstrong Oko-Flex from Celtic.
Those two loanees would step straight into the starting wing roles in a 4-4-2 turned 4-2-4 formation.
League action begins
With those glorified pre-season friendlies done and done with it was time for the serious work of Ladbrokes League One to begin. But we began the season with a huge injury crisis.
That wasn’t helped by having a tough game to begin the season away to Airdrieonians, who the media tipped to be promotion candidates along with us. A quiet first half ended with Airdrieonians getting their noses in front with a long-range strike by Paul McKay. We were creating very little but I went more attacking and eventually got level with a strike from Spencer that earned a hard-earned point.
Then our first league game at Stark’s Park saw Peterhead come to town. And we started well as 17-year-old left-winger Brady twice snuck in at the back post to head home. We totally dominated the game but somehow let Peterhead get a goal back and hung on for a 2-1 win.
We then dominated Forfar Athletic by 28 shots to 6 but eventually nicked a winner through that man Brady again.
First Fife derbies
Our first clash with Fife rivals East Fife followed as we made the short trip to the Bayview Stadium in Methil – and we went into it with 8 first-team players injured.
Regardless, we started the first Fife Derby in fine style with centre-back David McKay heading home at the back post from a corner inside 2 minutes. He then had a header disallowed on the verge of half-time for a very minimal offside. But we continued to dominate after the break and eventually doubled the lead with another long-range strike by Spencer.
That took us to the top of the league after 4 games in which none of our strikers have scored yet! And we got yet another injury…
We’d snuck past Stirling Albion in the second round of the Challenge Cup, which set up another local derby with rivals Dunfermline Athletic. They were top of the Championship and edged us 1-0 in a very dull match.
But we got back to winning ways with the lads’ best performance so far as we beat Dumbarton 3-1. We finally had the luxury of a striker scoring as Steven MacLean bagged his first Raith goal then another as Allan doubled the lead – with both assisted by midfielder Regan Hendry. And McKay made sure of things just before half time.
And Hendry was at it again as we ran riot on Stranraer, laying on 2 goals in the first 17 minutes for Spencer and captain Kyle Benedictus. MacLean, who’d just turned 37, found the net again and Allan wrapped up a 4-0 win just after half-time.
A first v second battle then ensued as we welcomed Falkirk to town. They raced into a 2-0 lead through Connor Sammon’s 14th goal of the season and Morgaro Gomis. But I demanded more and went more attacking and the lads bounced back with two goals in three minutes from as both Hendry and young winger Daniel Armstrong scored their first goals for the club.
Our fine form saw McKay wrap up young player of the month, Allan came second in player of the month and I won manager of the month for September.
We then walked all over Airdrieonians with a 4-2 win, in which Lewis Vaughan scored his first of the season after a long injury lay-off, before a tough to take 1-1 draw at Peterhead after we’d dominated the game.
Then something very off happened. I’d been unable to give striker Lewis Allan individual training all season due to him being ‘on holiday,’ then suddenly he became unavailable due to ‘personal reasons’ until April! Very odd indeed…
Then two games in a row saw our opponents score with their first shot in the first five minutes. The first time we came back to draw 1-1 at Forfar then we went one better to beat local rivals East Fife 2-1.
And we reached the 15 league match mark with a solid 2-0 win at 4th-placed Clyde with first-half goals from McKay and Vaughan. That left us still undefeated with 9 wins and 6 defeats and tied at the top of the league with Falkirk, who led us on goal difference.
Another Fife cup derby
Our first appearance in the Scottish Cup saw us once again drawn with a local rival, this time at home to East Fife. This time we were on the winning side as the boys put in a great performance to seal a 3-0 win.
That win put us into the draw for the fourth round with all the big boys and we drew one in Hibernian away in mid-January.
Join us next time to see if we can continue our strong start to life in Scottish League One and how we get on away to Hibs in the cup!